So you want to design a character that is appealing for children, but you don’t know where to start. Hopefully this guide will help set you on the right path, or at least get you thinking about what questions you need to answer and how to answer them. Let’s look at the old saying “There’s nothing new under the sun.” What you are trying to do has been done before, however don’t let that discourage you. There is plenty of room for you to add in your own originality and present your character as unique. However, that saying will help guide you on your quest by encouraging you to look at what has already been done. Ask yourself “in my childhood, what characters did I find appealing and why?” Make yourself a list. Consider cartoons. Did you like Bugs Bunny, or Mickey Mouse? Snoopy? Charlie Brown? Woody Woodpecker? Ash and Pikachu? Consider children’s books. Did you like Pooh Bear? Frog and Toad? Corduroy? Berenstain Bears? Consider video games. Did you like Super Mario? Sonic the Hedgehog? Zelda? Make yourself a list of compelling characters that you loved as a child.
Now that you have your list, ask yourself “What made these characters so appealing?” Did you like their appearance? Why or why not? Maybe you were attracted to rounded features like Mickey’s big round ears. Consider if Mickey had smaller ears like Jerry in Tom and Jerry. Would you like him as much? Maybe you liked big bright colors like Pikachu. If Pikachu was gray or a muted color, would he appeal to you as much? Maybe you liked Hello Kitty’s cuteness. If Hello Kitty looked like Garfield, would you like her as much? So make a list about appearance, and be as detailed as you can with each character considering what about them attracted you. Next consider abilities. Some characters are defined by their special abilities. For example, the Flash and Sonic the Hedgehog are largely defined by their super speed. Superman is defined by his super strength and flying ability. For characters that do not have special abilities, their appeal lies largely in their personality (as well as appearance). Consider Pooh Bear or Mickey Mouse. Neither one of these characters has special abilities, however they both have distinct ways speaking and pleasant personalities. So make a list about abilities vs. personalities for the characters and find out which appealed to you more and why.
Also consider plot. Some characters are bound to a particular plot. Consider Frodo Baggins or Angry Birds. With Frodo, he is bound to middle earth and the plot about the rings. With Angry Birds, they are bound to an everlasting conflict with the Pigs about their eggs. You’ll never see a book about Frodo going to a hamburger joint to kick it with highschool friends and talk about girls. You’ll never see an animation about Angry Birds in a forest looking for honey from Rabbit or fighting a tall dragon with a sword (and no Pigs involved). These characters and characters like them are confined to a particular plot. However, there are other characters, like Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse, who are free from plot. They can do or be whatever they want. In one video, you might have Mickey and the Beanstalk, where Mickey Mouse is playing the character Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk. In another video, Mickey might just be hanging with friends Goofy and Donald, and playing catch with Pluto. Mickey Mouse can basically do whatever he wants. You could even have parody videos of Mickey fighting Angry Bird Pigs or traveling middle earth to find a ring. So in your list of characters, decide whether each character is confined to a particular plot, or whether they are free from plot boundaries.
There are many other things you can consider, like whether a character is able to speak or not, and how they speak. Donald duck and Daffy duck both have unique ways of speaking, why Angry Birds do not speak. Consider whether the character has a particular saying that they always repeat, like Bug Bunny’s “What’s up doc?”. Also consider the characters overall mood and temperament. Donald duck is pleasant as long as things are going right, but when they go wrong he gets red-faced with anger. Piglet is a shy character, easily scared and not intimidating in the least. Also consider name. Some characters have names that begin with the same letter as the type of character they are. For example, Mickey Mouse. Mickey starts with an M, and Mouse starts with an M. This makes it very easy for children to remember their names. There’s also Donald Duck, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Minnie Mouse, etc. Other characters have names that sort of describe their abilities. For example, Superman or Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic is similar to Supersonic speed which is a rate of travel of an object that exceeds the speed of sound. Other characters have unique names that are fun to say. For example, Pikachu. So consider these characteristics and any others you can think of, and write them down for your list of characters.
Now that you’ve fleshed out the characters that appealed to you as a child and why, it’s time for you to design a character that will appeal to children. First you need to decide why you are creating this character. Is it for a game? Is it for an animation or a movie? Is it for a book? Is it for multiple forms of media? Once you’ve decided why you are creating this character, look back at your list of characters that appealed to you as a child and consider incorporating some of those characteristics into your character.
First, will your character be defined by plot, or will it be free from plot boundaries? If you decide your character will be defined by plot, then you need to spend the bulk of your time designing an appealing plot. If you decide your character will be free of plot (like Mickey Mouse) then you need to spend the bulk of your time defining the personality and characteristics of your character.
Maybe your character will have rounded features like Mickey Mouse, but have a witty personality like Bugs Bunny. Maybe your character will have a unique dance like Snoopy’s. Consider your own personal strengths. Are you good at creating funny content? Are you funny in real life? (seriously) If you are, they you might want to create a funny character, or a character with alot of wit. Are you highly imaginative? Do you enjoy exploring new things? If so, maybe you want to create a new character from another world or planet that we’ve never heard of with special abilities or something.
Whatever you choose to do, always refer back to your list of appealing characters that you grew up with. Let it be your guide towards creating your own character. Don’t be afraid to mix and match characteristics or develop new ones, as long as they don’t conflict.
Once you’re finished, it’s time for the ultimate test! Share your character with your true audience, the children. Kids can be brutally honest, but if you did your job right, you’ll have no problem holding their attention with your character. Maybe your character will be one they will remember as a child! Maybe they’ll serve as a friend to children now and in the future.
I hope this guide helps you get started on your journey towards creating a compelling character for children. I will be sharing a few characters I designed soon on this blog, so be on the look out for that. Also, if you would like to share any of your characters with me here on this blog, don’t be shy. I will give my honest opinion, and if I can help you promote, I will. Please note, I only support family oriented characters for children. Nothing dark, erotic or violent.
Thank you for reading my post and feel free to comment below.